What is a Skip Tracer?

Sheri Cyprus

A skip tracer is someone who locates missing persons. A skip tracer may work for a debt collection agency, bail bond enforcer or private investigator. The pay varies widely but many collection agencies pay skip tracers an hourly wage between $12 and $20 US Dollars (USD). The person being searched for may be someone's long lost relative, someone who has avoided paying monies owed or he or she may be wanted in a police or other matter. The term,skip tracer, is based on the idea of someone skipping town and someone else trying to trace this person’s whereabouts.

A skip tracer may be sent to find a defendant who failed to appear in court.
A skip tracer may be sent to find a defendant who failed to appear in court.

A skip tracer typically begins a search by gathering all types of information about the missing person. The information is checked for accuracy and then analyzed. Skip tracers often contact people connected with or formerly connected with their subject such as past and present relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Skip tracing involves searching for people who cannot be located.
Skip tracing involves searching for people who cannot be located.

Other sources of information for a skip tracer include public records such as credit reports and courthouse records. Marriages, divorces and bankruptcies often leave paper trails that a skip tracer can follow. Air travel and phone records are often helpful and sometimes even membership cards for department stores may provide clues. Skip tracers have found people that didn't want to be found because these subjects made mistakes such as forgetting to get rid of a frequent flyer account when booking plane travel. Sometimes even the tiniest clue can lead a skip tracer to locating someone.

An intentional skip is a person who tries not to be found and an unintentional skip is a person who isn't trying to avoid detection on purpose and may not realize that someone is looking for him or her. A woman who changes her name through marriage or divorce may be more difficult to find than a man. A total change of identity does not always guarantee that a person will avoid being tracked down by a skip tracer because it takes just one small mistake or trace left of his or her old life to start a trail.

Sometimes even the tiniest clue can lead a skip tracer to finding someone.
Sometimes even the tiniest clue can lead a skip tracer to finding someone.

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Discussion Comments

anon60804

It's definitely becoming easier to locate someone online. I found someone for a client owed a judgment and got a nice finder fee, even though the website I used was free!

anon23488

A skip tracer is the modern version of what was called a bounty hunter. I have heard lore of bounty hunters in popular fiction, including that a 19th century Supreme Court decision allows them to do "whatever it takes" to get their man.

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